Sunday, February 12, 2023

Fortnightly Book, February 12

 Robert E. Howard was born in Peaster, Texas in 1906. He was fascinated by poetry and stories from an early age, and, because of an extraordinary memory, often could recite what he had read after only one or two readings. Eventually he started submitting his own creations to magazines; he did not have much luck for a while, in part because he had to discover on his own what would sell. He slowly began to hit his stride when he found that he could occasionally something to Weird Tales. He then had a few instances of unusually good success with an experimental form of story, one about a man from Atlantis named Kull and another about a Puritan swashbuckler named Solomon Kane, and with these the genre of sword-and-sorcery was born. And in 1932, he began to have a new set of ideas for where to take this line; Cimmeria, the land populated by descendants of Atlantis, and a new hero, Conan the Cimmerian, was born. From the very first published story in which he appeared, Conan became a hit with readers, always in demand, and in the next few years Howard sold a fair number of stories about him. This success gave Howard some room to write more widely; despite its popularity and lasting appeal, in his own lifetime Howard actually made more money with westerns. But despite being a prolific writer, Howard had not long left. As his mother approached death due to tuberculosis in 1936, Howard, already subject to long bouts of depression, walked out to his car one June day, pulled a gun out of the glove compartment, and shot himself in the head.

The next fortnightly book is a book that I picked up some years ago at Half Price Books and it has mostly just gathered dust in a box until, wondering what next to read, I happened to see it. It is simply titled Conan the Barbarian and consists of nine short stories plus Howard's essay, "The Hyborian Age", about the world of Conan. The short stories were all published in Weird Tales and are as follows (with their first publication date in parentheses):

"Shadows in the Moonlight" (April 1934)
"Queen of the Black Coast" (May 1934)
"The Devil in Iron" (August 1934)
"The People of the Black Circle" (September-November 1934)
"A Witch Shall Be Born" (December 1934)
"Jewels of Gwahlur" (March 1935)
"Beyond the Black River" (May-June 1935)
"Shadows in Zamboula" (November 1935)
"Red Nails" (July-September-October 1936)

This is about half of the total number of Conan stories that were published by Weird Tales, so it covers a fair amount.

The realm of Atlantis has fallen and been forgotten. The various Hyborian nations have conquered almost all of the northwest of the world. But nations rise and nations fall. The mighty Hyrkanians press in from the East; the South resists Hyborian rule and expansion; and from the North the descendants of the snow apes the Hyborians had once driven north have begun to press southward with ever more irresistible force. It is an age of tumult and destruction, of chaos and ferment. Conan, once a warrior of some renown, wanders throughout the world in search of adventure. He will surely find it....